The New York freelance music scene, like the rest of the world, has undergone dramatic change in the past 10 to 15 years. At first glance it can seem overwhelming and a bit scary, but on closer inspection we come to realize that this change is our best opportunity for growth. It may seem a bit harsh, but the expression “change or die” has never been more applicable.
Some of the most enjoyable work I do is recording music in a studio. These recording sessions can be for a cd, a motion picture soundtrack, a television theme or commercial. Coming out of college, my goal was to become what was then called a “studio musician”. Everyday you were presented with a new, fresh musical challenge that you were seeing for the first time. A challenge that you had to deliver on immediately. A pressure packed environment for sure, but also an extremely rewarding one at times. As the music business has evolved over the past decade, the role of the studio musician has contracted. While I still get calls to record on a regular basis, it’s definitely less.
Fortunately, New York has a thriving musical theater scene also known simply as “Broadway”. Most freelance musicians in the commercial end of the business find themselves playing in the pits of Broadway. You either have a full time position, which enables you to perform 8 shows a week, or you are in the very talented pool of substitutes who fill in for the regulars when they take off to do other work.
I am currently playing a fantastically funny show called “Priscilla — Queen of the Desert”. And I do mean queen!! We’ve been running for a over a year now and it’s been a blast. The band was expertly assembled by the esteemed contractor John Miller and is lead by a supremely talented conductor/pianist/arranger named Jeff Klitz. Our band features some of the finest musicians in New York and I’m proud to be a part of it. Our cast is equally talented and to describe them as vivid is an understatement.
Before Priscilla, I was fortunate to be a part of the Tony award winning show Memphis. That show, which is still going strong, was a pleasure to play and featured an equally outstanding band. I am thrilled to have been a part of both of these stellar productions.
Musical theater is keeping the New York freelance scene vibrant and we are all most grateful for it. See a show next time you’re in New York and take the time to say hi to the wonderful musicians who are making the experience of live theater all the more memorable.